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Veto of California's Condoms in Prisons Bill: "Politics Over Public Health," Says AHF
Date:10/15/2007

AB 1334, (Swanson, D, Oakland), Sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), and the Southern California HIV/AIDS Coalition (SCHAC) Could Have Helped Reduce Spread of HIV and Other STDs Among California Inmates

Governor Instructs Department of Corrections to Implement Pilot Condom Distribution Program in California; AHF Notes Successful Programs in Jails in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia and Washington Already Show Law Could Work Without Threatening Safety and Security

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AB 1334 (Swanson, D-Oakland), The Inmate and Community Public Health & Safety Act, bill that would allow the state of California to permit nonprofit healthcare agencies permission to distribute 'sexual barrier protection devices' (such as condoms and dental dams) to be distributed in California prisons in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among inmates, was vetoed last evening by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the Governor's office promising to instruct the Department of Corrections to implement a smaller pilot condom distribution program as an alternative. The bill, which was sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) and the Southern California HIV/AIDS Coalition (SCHAC), and was authored and carried by Assemblyman Sandre Swanson. AB 1334 would have allowed the state's Department of Corrections to, "...require the director to allow any nonprofit or health care agency to distribute sexual barrier protection devices such as condoms or dental dams to inmates, as specified. The bill would also have established, "...that the distribution of those devices is not a crime nor shall it be deemed to encourage sexual acts between inmates," and that, "...possession of those devices cannot be used as evidence of illegal activity for purposes of administrative sanctions ..."

"We are disappointed that Governor Schwarzenegger chose to veto AB 1334, a bill that would have helped reduce the spread of HIV and other STDs among California inmates and their post-incarceration partners," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "While there will be benefits coming from the Governor's proposal to implement a pilot program in one state prison, there are still 32 other institutions in which inmates -- and subsequently their partners at home -- will be exposed to HIV unnecessarily. We cannot waste precious time creating pilot programs to prove the effectiveness of public health measures that have been effective for a quarter of a century. With his veto of AB 1334, we believe the Governor is sadly putting politics over public health."

Passed by state legislators in early September, the bill, would have allowed nonprofit and health agencies to provide condoms to inmates in state prisons, where HIV prevalence is 8 to 10 times greater than in the general population.

"Existing condom distribution programs in jails in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles already demonstrate that this California law could have worked without threatening safety and security in the state's correctional facilities; they are the de facto pilot program," said Joseph Terrill, Public Policy Coordinator for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "California's prison and public health officials often walk a fine line as they try to grapple with controlling the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among inmates in the state's prison population while following state law. The availability and use of condoms -- a proven risk-reduction strategy -- would have improved inmates' individual health outcomes and helped reduce costs to the state's overburdened prison health care system. We thank Assembly Member Swanson for authoring and carrying AB 1334, but remain saddened by the Governor's veto of this potentially lifesaving bill."

Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Alameda counties account for 69 percent of all AIDS cases and 72 percent of all HIV cases in California. These counties also receive a high number of parolees from California state prisons. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Los Angeles and San Diego make up 37 percent of parolee destinations.

In 2005, Assembly Member Paul Koretz (D, West Hollywood) introduced and carried a similar version of the bill (AB 1677, also sponsored by AHF, APLA and SCHAC), which the Governor ultimately vetoed.

About AHF

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the US' largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. In California, AHF operates the largest non-government HIV testing program, which conducts more than 15,000 HIV tests annually. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 61,000 individuals in 15 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at http://www.aidshealth.org


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SOURCE AIDS Healthcare Foundation
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